In 2000 and 2016, popular vote winners lost their bids for the presidency of the United States after receiving fewer electoral college votes than their opponents. To continue tracking how the public views the U.S. presidential election system, we surveyed 8,480 U.S. adults from July 10-16, 2023.
All those who participated in the current survey are members of the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited through a national random sampling of residential addresses. This way, almost every American adult has a chance of being selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Learn more about the The ATP methodology.
The Electoral College has played an outsized role in some recent U.S. elections. And a majority of Americans would welcome a change in the way presidents are elected, a report suggests. new survey from the Pew Research Center.
Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) say the way the president is elected should be changed so that the winner of the nationwide popular vote wins the presidency. A third favor is the maintenance of the current electoral college system.
Public opinion on this issue is essentially unchanged from last year, although Americans’ support for using the popular vote to decide the presidency remains higher than a few years ago.
Explore Americans’ views on the political system
This article draws on our major report on Americans’ attitudes toward the political system and political representation, conducted July 10-16, 2023. To learn more, explore:
The current electoral system in the United States allows the winner of the popular vote to not get enough money. The electoral college vote to win the presidency. This happened in the 2000 and 2016 elections, won by George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively.
Partisan opinions over time
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are much more likely than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to support moving to a popular vote system for presidential elections (82% vs. 47%).
The share of Democrats saying this is almost the same as last year, but higher than in January 2021, weeks before President Joe Biden was sworn in after winning both the Electoral College and the popular vote .
Republicans are fairly divided on this issue: 52% favor maintaining the current electoral college system and 47% favor moving to a popular vote system. Republican Party support for the popular vote is the highest on record in recent years – up from 37% in 2021 and just 27% in the days following the 2016 election.
Party and ideology
Nearly nine in ten liberal Democrats (88%) and about three-quarters of conservative and moderate Democrats (77%) say they would prefer presidents to be elected based on popular vote.
Ideological differences are greater among Republicans. A clear majority – 63% – of conservative Republicans prefer to keep the current system, while 36% of them would change it.
The balance of opinion reverses among moderate and liberal Republicans (who represent a much smaller share of the Republican coalition). A majority of moderate and liberal Republicans (63%) say they would support moving the country to a popular vote for the presidential election.
Younger adults are somewhat more supportive of system change than older adults. About seven in ten Americans under 50 (69%) support this proposition. This share drops to around six in ten (58%) among people aged 65 and over.
Political engagement – being interested in and paying attention to politics – is associated with views about the Electoral College, particularly among Republicans.
Very politically engaged Republicans are mostly in favor of maintaining the electoral college: 72% say so, while 27% support the move to a popular vote system.
Republicans with a moderate level of engagement are more divided, with 51% wanting to keep the system as is and 48% wanting to change it. And a clear majority of Republicans with lower levels of political engagement (70%) favor the popular vote.
The differences by commitment are much less pronounced among Democrats. About eight in ten Democrats with low (78%) and medium (82%) engagement levels favor system change, as do 86% of highly engaged Democrats.
Note: This is an update of articles previously published on January 27, 2021 (authored by Bradley Jones, a former principal investigator) and August 5, 2022 (authored by Jocelyn Kiley and Rebecca Salzer, a former intern) . here are the questions used for this analysiswith the answers, and its methodology.
A note on question wording
In January 2020, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey experience who asked this question in two slightly different ways. One used language that we and other organizations had used in previous years, with the reform option calling for “amending the Constitution so that the candidate who receives the most votes at-large National Party wins the elections. The other version called for “changing the system so that the candidate who receives the most votes nationally wins the election.” The January 2020 survey found no substantial difference between the question of “changing the Constitution” and “changing the system.”
We conducted this experiment largely because reforming the way presidents are selected does not technically require changing the Constitution. THE National Interstate Compact for the Popular Vote, for example, could theoretically achieve this without a constitutional amendment. Since there is no substantial difference in the survey results between the two question wordings, we adopted the revised wording.